Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Podunk Below the Masthead (Tuesday, March 30, 2010)

More mystery at the Pulp Mill, another suspicious attempted child abduction case and a second  degree murder case goes to trial, some of the items of the Tuesday news cycle.

Daily News, front page, headline story
WATSON ISLAND MILL SITE - THE STORY CONTINUES -- The Daily News outlines a few of the developments over the fate of the Watson Island mill site, the key revelation being the startling news that apparently all six previously submitted bids were rejected by the City. Two local sources on that angle, Lax Kw'alaams Chief Councillor Gary Reece and Bill Belsey, currently working on behalf of Sun Wave both confirmed for the Daily News that they understand that the city found all six bids did not meet the city's criteria. That would be a move that leaves the future of the site at the moment up in the air. While the City contemplates its next move, they have ongoing requirements for maintenance fees for the site and now are faced with a court case set to play out in BC Supreme Court as they continue on with their disagreements with Sun Wave, the recalcitrant tax paying former owners.

District of Port Edward Council welcomed a delegation from Prince Rupert Peace Power Corporation last Thursday night, as they updated council on the progress of the Mount McDonald wind farm, the proponents of the wind development are awaiting the completion of their Environmental Assessment, which once accepted will move the project on to its next phase of development. It's not expected that any feedback from the assessment will be received until at least 2011.

Yet another suspicious occurrence in the city involving children, as the RCMP issue their second alert of the last few weeks. Police have advised residents of the Kootenay Avenue area that two men were suspected of an attempted abduction last Thursday at approximately 7:20 pm at Kinsmen park in the area. The first of the two men is described as a Caucasian male, with blue eyes and short, dirty blonde hair with long bangs that reached his eyes and a leather jacket and according to a sketch apparently was wearing an Edmonton Oilers ball cap. The other male featured shoulder length hair and was wearing a black toque. The two were driving in an older light brown Ford Truck with shiny rims, and approached two children aged five and seven attempting to lure them into the truck, when the two declined they say one of the men said " you wanna die, you better run". If you have information on the incident you are asked to call the RCMP at 250-624-2136, 1-800-222--TIPS or at www.bccrimestoppers.com. 

The sports section runs through the medal haul for local skaters at the Nizut-nee skating competition in Houston this past weekend, as well a look back at Kelcie German's hockey season, as she recently wrapped up her second season with the female Major Midget Cariboo Cougars.

(Daily News archive items for March 30, 2010 )

Watson Island mill site the story continues
Ol’ McDonald had a wind farm...
Kitimat looking at options to revive town 
Literacy Day event well attended 
NDP speak up to oppose pipelines 
Hospice under-utilized

The Northern View
Emotions run high as board makes decision on closures -- The Northern View takes a look back at last weeks emotional school closure vote as the School District selected Ecole Westview School for closure (see article here

The Northern View
CN busy changing railroad ties in area -- Rail crews continue on with their railroad tie replacement project, which will see 100 rail workers involved in the major refit for the Northern line (see article here)

The Northern View
First Nations groups vow to halt pipeline-- Another bit of catch up as the Northern View recounts the developments of last week regarding the Enbridge Gateway project and the growing coalition against it (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Son to Trial in Father's Death -- A Prince Rupert man will continue on to trial in the death of his father and the stabbing of another man in August of last year (see article here)

CBC News British Columbia, Daybreak North
No new items were posted to the CBC website for Tuesday

Daybreak North is only posting selected items on their website now. The most recently posted items for this week can be found on the weekly archive for Daybreak North click here

Daily News, front page, headline story 
Watson Island Mill Site - The Story continues 
By Monica Lamb-Yorski 
The Daily News
Tuesday, March 30, 2010 


At least three of the proponents previously interested in Watson Island still have an eye on the property.

Speaking from Vancouver, Chief Councillor Garry Reece confirmed Lax Kw’alaams is still interested in purchasing Watson Island from the City of Prince Rupert. Representatives from the band toured the site last week and continue to explore partnership possibilities.

Reece said the band has a signed firm agreement with an investment partner, but was unwilling to disclose the partner’s identity at this time.

 “We’ve also talked with Quickload Terminals and CN Rail because they are interested in leasing properties on the site,” Reece added.

Quickload is presently a tenant at Watson Island and has stated it will continue to have an interest in leasing property at the site. It originally answered a request from the City, issued October of last year, for proposal submissions for purchasing the property, but told the Daily News in a recent interview that its proposal had been rejected.

A representative of CN Rail said the company was not prepared to make comment on the possibility of leasing, at this time.

Two weeks ago, Lax Kw’alaams held meetings, both in their community and in Prince Rupert, to let band members know about the band’s plans.

Council came away from the meeting feeling that community members were receptive to the band’s hopes for the purchase of Watson Island. “We feel like we have the community’s support,” Reece commented.

When asked if the band has met with Sun Wave Forest Products recently, Reece commented that they had had a couple of meetings prior to Sun Wave filing against the City in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

 “We haven’t met with Sun Wave since they filed the claim,” Reece said.

 According to Reece, the City rejected all six proposals that were submitted by the December 15 deadline to purchase Watson Island.

 “None of the proposals met the criteria,” said Reece. “Everyone was rejected. We’ve just been putting information together and we don’t know where it will go, but we are still interested in the property. There are a lot of opportunities there to get something in place and we are interested in working with other partners.”

Bill Belsey, former Liberal North Coast MLA and a former manager at the pulp mill, is now working on behalf of Sun Wave and two other Chinese companies interested in B.C. 
investments.

From Vancouver, Belsey said it is also his understanding that all six proposals to purchase Watson Island were thrown out by 
the City.

 “With all due respect to the City, they were looking for thirteen million and nobody believed that taxes are worth that. They were based on a value of sixty million - that of an operating pulp mill,” Belsey commented.

According to Belsey, he was hired by Sun Wave because of his past experience in Prince Rupert and with the pulp mill. 

“They have hired me to work with legal counsel on the current court case between Sun Wave and the City.” 

Another part of his job involves looking at possibilities in various aspects of fibre-related industries.

 “Sun Wave is looking at development in other places, even Kitimat, but the company has invested quite a bit in Watson Island and is still interested in doing something there,” Belsey explained.

There has been speculation that Sun Wave is interested in dismantling the ‘B’ mill and taking it off the Watson Island site, but Belsey said that isn’t true.

 “When I mentioned that to the Chinese they looked at me in disbelief and said, ‘that’s old technology’. They had talked about moving the digesters at one time, but realized the cost would be impossible. They have no intention of sending the mill elsewhere. I dare say there’s not much left there of value.”

 When asked why Sun Wave had filed a claim against the City in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Belsey said the company felt it had run out of options. “If the City won’t talk to you, I guess it’s time to go another route.” 

According to Belsey, in an interview with the Northern View, he had attempted to set up meetings with the City, but his initiations were not returned.

Upon subsequent questioning by the Daily News, Mayor Jack Mussallem had responded that neither he nor, as far as he was aware, city staff had been contacted by Belsey.

 “I’ve never been approached by Bill Belsey to have a meeting. I saw him once in 2010 at a social function, but never discussed anything with him,” the Mayor said.

Belsey, in turn, has confirmed that this had been his method of approach, “I saw the mayor at the Community Foundation dinner and told him I was in town and I’ve talked to City councillors and local businesses.” Belsey maintains Sun Wave is still open to talking with the City.

 “Our legal counsel has said we need to sit down as adults with the City and then call in our lawyers when we need them. [The City] knows we’re eager to talk and they are using a moronic clich√©, ‘it’s in front of the courts’. It’s sad that the City is continuing to pay a burn rate of one hundred thousand dollars a month at the mill and nothing’s happening out there and now they’re paying a burn rate plus lawyers.”

A third party, formerly a component of the Greenfield Clean Energy proposal, is also expressing a continued interest in the property.

Greenfield, who had been one of six that submitted a proposal on Watson Island, moved on to greener pastures upon receiving their letter of rejection by the City. In fact, it remains unclear exactly what the City’s criteria consisted of. According to several sources, Greenfield had been willing to meet the requested purchase price of 13.5 million but, as with others, the letter had simply stated that their proposal did not meet the required criteria. 

However, one of the proponents previously associated with that group is expressing an interest in working cooperatively with Lax Kw’ aalams and others in the possible purchase and potential use of the property.

 “The green technology introduced under the Greenfield proposal still shows an interest in the area. We have important green technologies that other proponents can use. In other words, there is a will to collaborate,” said a spokesperson.

 “Together we still may assist the City in coming up with something positive for the area. That’s a whole lot better than sitting back and allowing this environmental and economic catastrophe to continue.”

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